As springtime comes upon Thailand, I have been reflecting on how Thailand was my “springboard” into this new world of Eastern life including Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, my Bali life and then being brave enough to expand into Nepal and India. One of the many things I uniquely thank Thailand for, other than new cuisine and cooking classes, vibrant island tours, Northern Province indigenous peoples, my discovery of Matcha, Buddhist culture and art, local Batik textiles and Durian (my goodness what a list!) is the fabulous Thai massages and being trained in the art of this form of body work.
Being a massage therapist for many years at the time of my decision to train in the Thai way wasn’t too hard a decision to come to when on my first journey into Thailand. I first met my lovely trainer, Jidapa Norsai, on Phuket when I was first exploring some of the main tourist spots trying to decide where to settle for a bit to paint; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Koh Samui, Krabi and Phuket. After I had made the decision to settle in Phuket I soon re-contacted Miss Jidapa and enrolled in her school of Thai Massage that was licensed and certified through a proper government venue and was excited to begin this new journey. I am sharing this idea to those out there waiting for Thailand to re-open (hopefully come this April edition release that has changed) and feeling like they wish they had something to do or new to learn. If you can find someone in your area to experience this training with, now may be a good time. I do feel hands-on bodywork in these days of social isolation and a “no-touch” ruling in general can be damaging for human connection. Massage and bodywork of any kind can be so healing. Even just being available for your loved ones, family and friends, it is a gift to be shared.
There are many different schools all over Thailand to go to and various styles to take. I think the key, if you’re not a practitioner and just wanting to learn techniques to share, then the most important factor is the ease of which the course is structured and location. I organised my time to be able to take the course in Phuket Town at a time I had finished up with my 3 month “self-tour” of mainland Thailand and had decided to “hunker” in Phuket for another three. I organised to move into my new home in Kamala after my course so could stay in a small hotel across the street from the school. Phuket Town is so charming to spend some real time in, so it certainly wasn’t a trying situation.
I was impressed with the chiropractor that was also based at the school and it was a real treat to learn the Thai massage way. The main basis for most Thai massage I found in my training was with the way in which the practitioner moved and stretched the limbs of the person while doing some good deep pressure, sometimes with thumbs, sometimes with knees. It encourages the client to engage in “active relaxation” which can be easier said than done! I already knew some Shiatsu work from previous training however the “moving of other people’s limbs” while I stretched them and put pressure on various areas was new to me. If the client is very limber this can be a challenge. There are some very advanced Thai therapists that can lay on their backs while supporting you up in the air with their feet while you relax on top of their feet as they push into your back! This is not a level most attain to but being able to walk on the back, hang from a bar from the ceiling to massage the client with feet can be done. The normal basic way really is just like some of these pictures demonstrate, using thumbs for deep pressure and using one’s forearms and palms for some effleurage type massage, with or without oil. There is also a ‘tapping” method which uses the sides of the hands closest to the pinky to alternately tap rapidly on various areas of the body to loosen and heat up the muscles in that area.
My course was a month intensive training 5 days a week, 7.5 hours a day. It was a professionally certified and licensed massage course that I chose to do to add to my already massage therapist professional resume however, one might think about a weekend workshop or something similar to learn some of the basic moves to practice on family and friends. In this human contact touch, a little can go a long way.
I will always remember the first experiences of my Thai time back in 2015/16 and have been in and out of Thailand many times since. I’ve taken home with me many gifts of experiences from Thailand; tangible art, great new recipes, beautiful textiles and clothes but the best gift I received from Thailand, other than having the privilege of writing for Expat Life in Thailand and sharing my art and healthful ideas, has been the gift of giving a real proper Thai massage!